There is nothing quite like attending a major sporting event, but when it is your favourite sport, it’s bliss! I recently spent some time at the 2012 US Open Tennis Championships and there were a couple of consistent behaviour patterns that were observed while thoroughly enjoying a New York summer’s day. My observations are far from rocket-science, but definitely worth revisiting and reinforcing!
Although I love watching the physical and technical prowess of these players, it makes sense that I am ‘sussing out’ how they conduct themselves on the court, particularly in the tighter points that ultimately determine the score-line.
The importance of making your opponent play one more ball was evident. Demonstrating that you are a fighter and will chase down every ball and give your opponent one more ball to think about is vital. There are several factors that contribute to this behaviour, but it starts with a commitment to being a fighter. It is a mental approach that is worth training. It is fed by wanting to make the match a battle, wanting to outsmart and outclass your opponent.
The value of strategic thinking was also evident. To be able to not only show off your strengths but to expose your opponent’s weaknesses as well.. make them uncomfortable through forcing them to play shots they don’t like or that are not effective. The winners were the ones who kept this goal close to them and created opportunities as well as consolidated opportunities when they were presented.
The higher ranked players typically do this better but I am not sure it is only due to their tactical skills, but to do with the lack of belief of the unseeded or lower ranked players. The underdog as expressed in the numbers (i.e., ranking/seeding) can force those ‘better’ players to take notice by behaving like they have a chance. I witnessed two matches on the same day early in the first week that this was evident – a women’s and a men’s match. During the women’s match the lower ranked player behaved ‘as if’ they were as good (and better) than their opponent and came out as the victor. Whereas, during the men’s match the lower ranked player had clearly counted themselves out and appeared content with winning a few points, and not surprisingly walked off confirming his predetermined defeat.
So, the takeaway points:
1. Fight, fight, fight..
2. Be strategic
3. Give yourself a chance!
One more thing.. Here is a quick tip for those aspiring to take on the world’s best in a US Open Tennis Championships.. Practice with noise, and lots of it! The crowds are so noisy – like nothing I have experienced as a spectator. Although I had heard that this was the case at Flushing Meadows, it was not until I spent some time in Arthur Ashe Stadium that I completely understood just how noisy it gets. Winners of this Championship are to be admired for their ability to create their own ‘bubble’ and block out the excessive noise!
As I review our newsletter to send off to get distributed I have to add that although I did not have the pleasure of watching the Azarenka versus Williams match live, I did make the effort to get up early to watch this battle. It was a fantastic battle. It displayed all of the above points. Never, ever, ever give up. Make them play one more ball.. Brilliant stuff Serena!
Andrea Furst PhD | Sport & Exercise Psychologist MAPS